Americas

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… March 8th-15th, 2012.

  • A key player in the 2011 Conservative party campaign for Guelph is refusing to answer more questions, on the advice of his lawyer, from Elections Canada investigators probing fraudulent robo-calls in the riding during the last election that allegedly misled voters. In an extremely rare move, the Conservative government publicly backtracked on Tuesday on their plans to buy 65 state-of-the-art F-35 fighter planes, after many questioned the fact that the government didn’t bother soliciting bids from other manufactures.
  • New York’s Wall Street group warned it could run out of money by the end of the month, raising questions about the future of the movement that sparked nationwide protests against economic injustice last year. Thousands of people marched across the state of Alabama in the United States on Saturday, to protest against new electoral laws that would require voters to show strict forms of photo ID that they say is unfair to millions of African-American and Latino voters. On Monday, the UN special rapporteur on torture accused the US government of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of passing confidential documents to WikiLeaks, at times forcing the soldier to strip naked and endure freezing temperatures. On Tuesday, the Pentagon released plans for a “heat ray” weapon to be used for crowd control that would direct electromagnet waves at people that would deliver sudden, unbearable heat to targets up to a kilometre away.
  • The bodies of four youths were found cut to pieces and left in plastic bags in the central Mexico city of Cuernavaca on Thursday along with a threatening note from a drug gang. On Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported that police departments in Nuevo Leon state will begin giving a series of lie detector tests and psychological exams in an effort to stop corruption on the force.
  • The left-wing party of the ousted President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya named his wife as its Presidential candidate in elections next year on Tuesday. The former first lady is a relative novice in politics.
  • Polls opened in El Salvador on Sunday, in a big test for the first leftist government since the end of the civil war 20 years ago. By Monday, the Nationalist Republican Alliance was ahead with slightly more than 40% of the vote with 50% of precincts reporting.
  • A former Special Forces soldier, Pedro Pimentel Rios, in Guatemala was sentenced to a largely symbolic 6,060 years in prison for his role in the killings of 201 people in a 1982 massacre.
  • With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics fast approaching, authorities in Brazil’s Rio are racing to build new hotels to cope with the influx of thousands of tourist, leaving many behind in the wake of soaring prices and some 7 million shortfall of available homes. On Tuesday, prosecutors announced they would file charges against a retired colonel over the disappearance of five guerrillas during the 1964-85 military dictatorship, the first such case to be brought against any military officers from that era.
  • Two Pakistani UN peacekeepers in Haiti were sentenced on Wednesday to a year in prison with hard labour after a trial found them guilty of sexual abuses and exploitation.
  • At least three protesters were killed and some 32 people wounded on Wednesday as police in southeastern Peru reportedly clashed with illegal miners opposed to a government crackdown on unauthorized gold mining.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… March 1st-8th, 2012.

  • President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina sought negotiations with the UK to establish several weekly flights from Buenos Aires to the Falkland Islands on Thursday, a move the Islands’ legislative chairman says is “about as likely as the Falklands Air Service landing flights on the moon”.
  • The independent federal elections agency in Canada announced on Friday that it is now investigating more than 31,000 complaints of voting irregularities related to automated telephone calls during the last election that allegedly sent voters to false voting stations. The irregularities have been linked to the ruling Conservative Party, though the party and the PM thoroughly deny any wrongdoing. On Monday, the Conservative parliamentary secretary refused to release its call records in the wake of the growing robo-call scandal, while at the same time calling upon the Liberal party to release their records and shifting blame to Election Canada, the independent election body. On Tuesday, PM Harper refused to explain why Conservative MPs rejected a request by Elections Canada for more power to verify campaign financial returns; while the Conservatives reportedly repaid taxpayers $230,198 for their previous “in-and-out” scandal from the 2006 elections. On Wednesday, the Vancouver Observer ran a report detailed a Conservative adjunct professor’s experience attending the Conservative-aligned Manning Centre for Democracy Campaign School where voter suppression tactics were allegedly discussed.
  • President Chavez of Venezuela announced that he will need radiation treatment for cancer in the run-up to the October Presidential elections; though he insisted there was no metastasis after the removal of another tumor. On Saturday, Al Jazeera ran a report on the country’s struggles to stop violent crimes. On Monday, the government and opposition traded blame with each other after a violent melee at a Presidential campaign stop where several people were injured by bullets in Caracas.
  • President Martelly of Haiti nominated his foreign minister and close advisor, Laurent Lamothe, as PM on Thursday, raising hopes of a swift end to the country’s political vacuum. On Sunday, the President asked government officials to find ways to clear several sites around the country being occupied by ex-members of the armed forces.  On Wednesday, a banker whose son is cooperating with authorities in a major US bribery investigation involving former government officials was shot and killed.
  • United States Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to outline the legal framework for the use of lethal force in targeted killings of Americans overseas in a major speech at Northwestern University law school on Sunday, suggesting that lethal force is legal under a September 18, 2001 resolution. On Monday, a bill reportedly passed in the House of Representatives (passing in the Senate on Thursday) that would expand existing anti-protest laws that make it a felony to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted”, which is defined in extremely vague and broad terms and could include a building or grounds where the President or other persons protected by Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting. Tuesday was dubbed “Super Tuesday” as 10 states opened their primary and caucus contests for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination.  On Thursday, two people were killed and seven wounded in a shooting at a psychiatric institute at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre; while a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre suggested that the number of hate and anti-government groups continued to rise in the previous year, fueled by racial tensions, conspiracy theories and anger over economic inequality. Reports suggested that a state senator in Wisconsin introduced a bill aimed at penalizing single mothers by calling their unmarried status a contributing factor in child abuse and neglect.
  • Police in Peru announced that they arrested a suspected leader of a Maoist faction of the Shining Path rebel movement on Saturday who was the apparent successor to “Comrade Artemio” who was captured last month.
  • Following the rebel group FARC in Colombia’s announcement that it intends to release the last of its captives and stop kidnapping for ransom, families of 10 people currently in FARC custody were provided with new hope. On Tuesday, the ELN guerrillas reportedly freed 11 oil workers who were kidnapped in late February.
  • President Correa of Ecuador rallied supporters on Thursday in a show of force against street protests by opponents who he said were trying to destabilize his government ahead of the 2013 election.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… February 23rd-March 1st, 2012.

  • The Atlantic ran an interesting article discussing whether Central America should legalize drugs or not, in an effort to reduce the drug related violence in the region. Al Jazeera also took a look at rising drug related violence in Central America in the wake of a recent UN report.
  • A bill aimed at outlawing abortion by granting individual rights to an embryo died on Thursday in the Virginia state Senate in the United States when lawmakers returned the bill to committee. On Friday, Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks was formally charged with 22 counts, including “aiding the enemy”, after declining to enter a plea in a military trial; while gay marriage was set to be legalized in Maryland after the state Senate gave its final approval to a bill that will now be sent to the Governor. The Pentagon notified lawmakers of plans to boost American strength in the Persian Gulf in response to alleged Iranian threats close to the Straits of Hormuz on Saturday. On Monday, it was reported that millions of dollars of White House money helped to pay for a New York Police Department program that put entire American Muslim neighbourhoods under surveillance since 9/11; while a student in a high school in Ohio opened fire in the cafeteria with a handgun, killing one student and wounding four others before giving himself up to authorities (the death toll rose to 3 the following day). WikiLeaks published more than five million emails stolen from an Austin, Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor that is now being called the Enron of private intelligence. On Wednesday, a Pakistani national in Guantanamo Bay plead guilty to five charges related to terrorism, murder, conspiracy and spying, reaching a plea deal that he provide “full and truthful cooperation” with the US government that limits his prison sentence.
  • The Prime Minister of Haiti offered his resignation to the President on Saturday after days of political tension between the premier and government ministers over issues of dual nationality. On Wednesday, several thousands of supporters of former President Aristide filled the streets of Port-au-Prince on the eighth anniversary of his toppling, demanding that President Martelly prove he does not hold dual citizenship and that the UN peacekeeping mission leave the country.
  • On Friday, five disabled protesters began a hunger strike in Bolivia in their campaign demanding that the government pay an annual subsidy to disabled people; while scores of disabled people fought police in La Paz after ending their 1,000 mile, 100-day trek through the country.
  • Police in Puerto Rico were alerted to a 6-foot-long military torpedo at a metal recycling centre along the north coast on Friday.
  • An American immigration judge ruled on Thursday that there are sufficient grounds to begin deportation proceedings against a former defense minister of El Salvador for his alleged involvement in torture and extrajudicial killings in the 1980s.
  • Protesters in Bahrain are angered at riot weaponry from Brazil that has reportedly been used on them in recent months, killing some 35 people and injuring hundreds of others. Protesters allege that the Brazilian tear gas has more chemical substances that has made people foam at the mouth and caused other symptoms, even causing the death of babies.
  • The PM of Canada announced he was unaware of allegations that his Conservative party had used dirty tricks to suppress votes to help them win by a narrow margin in last year’s federal election, after an Elections Canada investigation revealed that voters in several constituencies had received automated phone calls designed to prevent them from casting their ballots. On Monday, it was revealed that all the calls weren’t robo, automated pre-recorded voice messages, but rather real-time calls made into ridings across the country; a move that Liberal leader Bob Rae said definitely affected the election results, specifically in 27 ridings that were hotly contested.
  • Two British cruise liners were reportedly turned away from a port in Argentina as tensions mounted over the future of the Falkland Islands. On Wednesday, the British government accused Argentina of pursuing a policy of confrontation over the Falklands, after reports suggested they were calling on companies to stop importing goods from the UK.
  • FARC rebels in Colombia vowed to free 10 remaining police and military hostages and end its practice of kidnapping civilians on Sunday, calling the practice “nothing but a disaster”. The government greeted the announced with caution, as an “important and necessary step” for peace and that they would like to see an end to armed attacks, not merely a ceasefire. On Wednesday, at least 11 Colombian oil workers were reportedly seized by an unidentified armed group as they worked on a pipeline near the Venezuelan border.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… February 16th-23rd, 2012.

  • President Caledron of Mexico reportedly unveiled a large advertising board near the American border calling on the US to stop the flow of weapons into the country on Friday.  On Sunday, a fight between prison inmates inside a jail near Monterrey reportedly killed some 44 people. On Monday, reports suggested that some 30 members of the Zeta drug cartel plotted with prison guards to orchestrate an elaborate escape that resulted in Sunday’s prison deaths.
  • The Governor of New Jersey in the United States rejected a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state and called upon a ballot question to decide the issue a day after the state assembly passed it. On Friday, a 29 year-old Moroccan man was arrested in Washington DC as part of an anti-terrorism campaign, as he carried what he thought was explosives into the city. On Monday, the Obama administration’s plan to revamp the country’s nuclear weapons strategy and possibly reduce the number of warheads was leaked to the press, causing a major uproar among some conservatives who called the proposals “reckless lunacy”. On Tuesday, the US Marine corps discharged the long marine convicted in the 2005 killings of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha, but will not face jail time. On Wednesday, several members of the Congress received mail threatening biological attack and containing suspicious powder, later found to be harmless by law enforcement officials. On Thursday, at least seven US soldiers were reportedly killed after two helicopters collided during a training exercise along the Arizona-California border.
  • Authorities in Canada announced plans to toughen their refugee laws to filter out fake claims from “safe” countries like Hungary, which it says are clogging up the system and wasting taxpayer money. Critics say it is an attack on human rights, as it appears to target the large influx of claims from Roma “gypsies” coming from Hungary. The country has also allegedly threatened a trade war with the European Union over the bloc’s plan to label oil from the province of Alberta’s vast tar sands as highly polluting. An indigenous community has launched a lawsuit against the government and a petrochemical company SunCor for failing to prevent pollution that has taken a severe toll on their environment and health.
  • The top court in Ecuador upheld a jail sentence on Thursday against three newspaper publishers who were also ordered to pay damages for libelling President Correa. Rights groups claim the ruling puts freedom of expression under threat.
  • The President of Haiti was reportedly attacked as he walked in a Carnival procession in Port-au-Prince, but escaped unharmed on Friday. Witnesses say that “troublemakers” were throwing rocks at the President and his accompanying motorcade.
  • National police in Panama reportedly broke up protests over plans for a vast copper mine and hydroelectric schemes, killing three men, wounding dozens and detaining more than 100 others.
  • Flooding rivers in Peru and Chile displaced people and turned up old land mines from the 1970s, resulting in a closure of the border between the two countries on Monday.
  • President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela announced that he must receive another operation to remove a lesion on his pelvis where surgeons removed a large cancerous tumour last year, but denied rumours that there was any metastasis. Chavez’s imminent departure for his surgery has reportedly thrown his re-election campaign into uncertainty.
  • Hundreds of relatives of inmates who died in last week’s prison fire in Honduras reportedly forced their way into a morgue in the capital to demand the remains of loved ones on Tuesday. The government announced that a dropped cigarette may have set off the fire, going back on the original claims of a purposely set fire.
  • A group of 17 leading intellectuals in Argentina criticized the government for supporting the right to self-determination of Falkland Island inhabitants, questioning the country’s claims on the territory.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… February 9th-16th, 2012.

  • The Pentagon in the United States announced their plans on Thursday to change rules in the armed forces to open up more than 14,000 positions for women to serve as frontline medics, helicopter pilots and intelligence analysts, bringing them closer to frontline combat roles. On Saturday, Republican Presidential front-runner Mitt Romney narrowly won Maine’s caucuses with 39% support; while the hacker group Anonymous claimed responsibility for disabling the CIA website, making it inaccessible for several hours. On Monday, lawmakers in New Jersey passed a bill through the state Senate to legalize gay marriage for the first time, but Governor Chris Christie announced he would veto the bill. On Tuesday, Texas announced that they may be incapable of carrying out further death sentences beyond June because they are running out of supplies of lethal drugs; more than 1.8 million dead Americans reportedly remain listed as active voters, as the voter registration system is “plagued with errors and inefficiencies”; the US Defense Secretary told members of Congress that President Obama’s proposed smaller defense budget won’t compromise US “military superiority” around the world; while the US Department of Defense is apparently asking the federal government for almost $3 billion for “activities” in Iraq, even though they have supposedly withdrawn from the country.
  • Argentina accused Britain of sending a nuclear submarine to the disputed Falkland Islands on Friday, in an ongoing feud between the two nations. MPs from a parliamentary committee that oversees defence matters are set to visit the Falklands next month, in a move that is likely to heighten tensions even more between Britain and Argentina.
  • The Guardian reported on Sunday on defenders of the Amazon in Brazil who inform on illegal loggers often face death or exile; while the police strike in the north-east reportedly ended, though a similar action in Rio de Janeiro is still continuing.
  • Venezuela ran its first-ever opposition Presidential primary on Sunday, where it chose a single challenger to run against incumbent Hugo Chavez. Henrique Capriles, a state governor, won the primaries with around 62 percent of the vote. By Wednesday, allies of Chavez had allegedly begun a smear campaign against Capriles, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the vote, questioning his sexuality and disparaging his Jewish roots.
  • The top leader of the Shining Path in Peru has reportedly been found alive, but is badly wounded, after the military had earlier reported him dead. On Sunday, reports were suggesting that the leader was badly wounded after being shot and captured by security forces in a remote jungle.
  • Authorities in central Mexico say a mob of around 300 took three suspected kidnappers out of town’s police station and beat them to death, setting two of the men on fire during an attack on Friday. On Saturday, authorities for the first time appointed a female to the role of head of the federal police. On Wednesday, police reportedly found the mutilated bodies of six men inside plastic bags dumped on a road near the city of Cuernavaca with a threatening message inside.
  • A fire allegedly started by an inmate in a prison in Honduras killed some 356 prisoners, who were locked in their cells. Outraged relatives of the dead inmates tried to storm the gates of the prison on Wednesday morning to recover the remains of their loved ones, but were driven back by police officers firing tear gas.  Reports suggest that most of the inmates in the prison had never been charged, let alone convicted of any crime.
  • The UN Security Council finished a four-day visit to Haiti and called for police reform and improvement in living conditions for those displaced in the January 2010 earthquake.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… February 2nd-9th, 2012.

  • A Pentagon legal official refused to extend an important deadline to file motions for defense lawyers of the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the September 11th attack on Friday. Dozens of riot police cleared the last remaining Occupy encampments in the United States on Saturday, saying they were banned under park rules; while members of the hacker group Anonymous made a statement on the website of the law firm Puckett and Faraj claiming to have published three GB of private email messages of the attorneys who defended the US Marine who faced charges in the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in the Haditha massacre and recently had his charges dropped. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down a California law that strips gay couples of the right to marry, stating it violated principles of due process and equal protection under the law. On Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington State voted to approve gay marriage; while the authorities agreed with Japan to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of American troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind a stalled discussion about closing a major US Marine base there. On Thursday, the Pentagon unveiled a new policy that intends to expand job opportunities for women in the military, but will shift them closer to combat fighting, in an effort to begin eliminating some of the gender-based discrimination in the military. Al Jazeera ran an interesting article asking whether democracy in the US is being bought and sold by corporations, unions and political action committees.
  • An article in the SF Chronicle discussed the recent mass evictions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in preparation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, with some 170,000 people reportedly facing threats to their housing or already removed. The army reportedly clashed with striking police officers in the city of Salvador over the weekend. The police officers are striking over pay and poor benefits amid rising crime rates, with some 78 people murdered in only 5 days. On Thursday, the striking police officers agreed to leave the state assembly house they had occupied for several days, but have not yet indicated that the strike was over.
  • An ageing peace activist in Ecuador has built a haven for young local gang members called the Barrio de Paz or the “Neighbourhood of Peace”, becoming a grandmotherly figure to the gang members and helping to guide them into a life of non-violence. The activist believes that gang organizations can be transformed to be used for good, as a support system for other members and has had some great successes in her process.
  • The ruling centre-right political party in Mexico announced that they had chosen a woman to run for the Presidency. Josefina Vazquez Mota, a former writer of self-help books, economist and former education minister, is currently around 20 percentage points behind Enrique Pena Nieto, the Institutional Revolutionary party candidate. A drug cartel in Ciudad Juarez threatened to kill an officer a day until the city’s police chief steps down, forcing officers into hiding around the city. On Wednesday, a suspected Zeta drug gang member led authorities to a mass grave site at two ranches in the state of Veracruz.
  • The United Kingdom dismissed Argentina’s new threat to complain to the UN over what Argentina called the “militarization” of the disputed Falkland Islands, although as a permanent member of the Security Council, they could veto any potential resolution. The British Foreign Office said that the people of the island are British citizens “out of choice”. On Wednesday, Britain ruled out the possibility of talks with Argentina.
  • President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela celebrated the 20th anniversary of the failed coup that helped launch his political career with a lavish military parade, angering opposition leaders who see the coup attempt as a blemish on the country’s democracy. Two brothers believed to be the leaders of a rightwing paramilitary group were arrested on Tuesday on crimes including murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. On Thursday, the Guardian ran an article about the opposition candidates joining together in coalition to oust Hugo Chavez in the upcoming Presidential elections.
  • The federal government of Canada is defending its recent decision to direct CSIS, the Canadian spy agency, to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake.
  • The most important leader of the Shining Path insurgency has reportedly been wounded in a clash in Peru. President Humala has vowed to step up efforts to catch the group.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… January 23rd- February 2nd, 2012.

  • The Organization of American States (OAS) Permanent Council adopted proposals to strengthen the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wednesday. Included in the non-binding proposals were three recommendations that threaten the reach and independence of the Special Rapporteurship.
  • Last Monday, security forces in Mexico reportedly arrested 11 alleged members of the most powerful drug gang, the Sinaloa cartel, during a helicopter raid of a ranch in the north-west. On Tuesday, six people, five of them policemen, were killed in a failed attempt to free two detainees in the central region.  A new study released this week suggests that the Zetas cartel has become the biggest drug gang in the country, overtaking the Sinaloa cartel. This Monday, police in the northern region captured an alleged member of the Zetas drug gang who had confessed to killing at least 75 people.
  • The Mexican ambassador to Venezuela was briefly kidnapped on Sunday night after being seized from his car with his wife in Caracas. Kidnapping is reported soared in recent years.
  • Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary for Republican Presidential candidates in the United States on Sunday, overthrowing favorite Mitt Romney; while the Occupy Oakland protests were halted, resulting in nearly 400 arrests. On Monday, the UN human rights chief said the US government must close Guantanamo Bay prison as President Obama promised over a year ago. On Wednesday, the director of the documentary Gasland was arrested and escorted out of a Republican-dominated Congressional hearing for refusing to stop filming the hearing; the only US marine to face sentencing for the murder of 24 unarmed Iraqis was acquitted of all charges; while President Obama gave his annual State of the Union speech to launch his 2012 re-election campaign. On Thursday, prosecutors subpoenaed the Twitter records of an Occupy Wall Street protester arrested in October. On Friday, Pentagon leaders outlined a plan for absorbing $487 billion in defence cuts over the coming decade by shrinking US ground forces, slowing the purchase of a next-generation stealth fighter jet and retiring older planes and ships; while Republican candidate Newt Gingrich promised to build a colony on the moon should he become President. On Saturday, Occupy Oakland protesters clashed with police as they tried to take over downtown buildings, including city hall, resulting in more than 300 arrests; while the Pentagon announced that their largest conventional bomb isn’t yet capable of destroying Iran’s heavily fortified underground facilities and that they are stepping up efforts to make them more powerful.  On Monday, Occupy protesters in Washington vowed to remain peacefully entrenched in two parks near the White House after a police order demanded they stop camping on federal land, defying the noon deadline to remove their camps. On Wednesday, Mitt Romney won the Florida Republican presidential primary, improving his chances of receiving his party’s nomination. An interesting report on a controversial project treating alcoholic homeless persons in Seattle caught my eye. Several discussions about drone strikes made the news this week, after many called Obama’s comments on them misleading.
  • President Rual Castro defended the one-party system in a speech this week at a conference of the ruling Communist Party, saying that allowing other political parties would threaten the independence of Cuba and the socialist system. He also reaffirmed plans to limit political terms to 10 years. Fidel Castro called the American Republican presidential race the greatest competition of “idiocy and ignorance” the world has ever seen and also criticised the news media.
  • On Wednesday, Argentina accused Britain of militarizing a sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands, after they sent a warship and the country’s future king to the islands. British diplomats accused Argentina of plotting an economic blockade on the Falklands amid fears that Buenos Aires is attempting to stop all flights from Chile from reaching the islands.
  • Authorities in Peru said they are struggling to keep outsiders away from a previously “isolated” Amazon people, as the river has become more popular with environmental tourists, loggers and mining companies who are encroaching on their land.
  • A new study was released analyzing how Brazil has assumed the visible leadership of peacekeeping operations in Haiti and Timor in order to increase its international status in a bid to gain a permanent seat at the UNSC. Last Sunday, riot police in the country stormed an illegal settlement of landless workers in Sao Paulo state to reclaim the land for its private owners, evicting some 6,000 residents who had recently lost a legal battle and resulting in intense criticism.
  • Transgendered persons and supporters in Canada were outraged this week as new screening regulations for airlines went viral. The new regulations stipulate that an “air carrier shall not transport a passenger if… the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents”, effectively banning transgendered persons from boarding.
  • The Clingendael Institute and Impunity Watch released a new report entitled “Breaking the wave: critical steps in the fight against crime in Guatemala.”  On Monday, at least 8 people were killed and at least 20 wounded in an attack at a nightclub in Villa Nueva. On Friday, former military leader Efrain Rios Montt appeared in court to face accusations of genocide and other human rights crimes allegedly committed during his 17 month long rule in the early 1980s.
  • Last Monday anti-government fighters in Colombia attacked a radar installation in Cauca province, killing a guard and delaying several flights. On Wednesday, the FARC rebels agreed to exchange 6 hostages for jailed guerrillas. On Friday, the UN warned that the country needs to do more to prosecute against forced displacement, after hundreds of thousands of people continue to be pushed from their homes each year by armed groups. On Wednesday, the FARC rebel group announced they would delay the release of six hostages due to military activity in the area. On Thursday, seven people were killed and more than 70 injured when a motorcycle packed with explosives was driven into a police station in the city of Tumaco.
  • Nine gold diggers were killed in a gunfight between rival gangs in French Guiana on Saturday. The two groups were allegedly fighting for control of the area.
  • A court in Ecuador suspended the appeal hearing lodged by newspaper editors facing charges for allegedly libelling President Correa. The suspension was reportedly the result of an ill judge.
  • The UN announced that it is investigating two alleged cases of sexual exploitation of children by UN staff in Haiti. The allegations come just four months after Uruguayan peacekeepers were recalled after being accused of rape. On Monday, a judge in the country announced that he is recommending that “Baby Doc” Duvalier face trial on corruption charges but not the more serious human rights violations during his brutal 15-year rule.
  • A wave of protests in Santiago, Chile forced the government to abandon its plans to force journalists to hand over images to police under a controversial new legislation. The bill would have granted new power for the law enforcement and security forces and criminalized expressions of opinion.
  • The President of El Salvador is being heavily criticized for naming an army general as the new head of police, with many calling the move “unconstitutional” and in violation of the 1992 peace accord.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… December 15th-22nd, 2011.

  • The trial of Breanna (nee Bradley) Manning, the soldier allegedly responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret state documents to WikiLeaks began this week in the United States. Manning is charged with 23 counts, including knowingly passing on intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means, though evidence linking Manning to WikiLeaks is disputed. Manning’s trial wrapped up on Thursday, with a final decision due in January. Transcripts of military interviews from the investigation of the 2005 Haditha massacre by US Marines of Iraqi citizens were found in a trailer in a junkyard in Baghdad this week, shedding some light on the dehumanizing nature of the war for the US Marines, who saw the massacre as routine. On Friday, President Obama announced that his administration has done more than any other to support Israel’s security and described his commitment to Israel as “unshakable”.  On Monday, Secretary of State Clinton announced the country’s hopes to prevent and diffuse conflicts by getting more women seated at negotiating tables around the world; while Human Rights Watch called upon the country to transfer the CIA command of aerial drone strikes to the armed forces clarify the legal rationale for targeted killings, and reduce the use of CIA drone strikes. On Wednesday, Amnesty International called upon President Obama to live up to his pledge to end detentions at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, which they call a systemic attack on human rights.
  • On Friday, it was reported that the government of Honduras had deployed the military across the country in an effort to tackle violence by organized crime and drug traffickers. The country has the highest murder rate in the world. A group of women journalists calling for justice for slain reporters were reportedly violently suppressed by police with batons and tear gas in the capital last week.
  • The major port city of Veracruz in Mexico disbanded its entire police force in an effort to stem corruption on Wednesday. Some 800 officers and 300 administrative employees were laid off and replaced by the military. They will have a chance to reapply if they can meet stricter standards.
  • Talks at the Conga Gold mine project in Peru broke down on Monday, after the PM excluded environmental activists from the mediation efforts. Residents are concerned that their water supply will be affected by the mining activities, and have been protesting since early November.
  • Banks in Cuba began offering loans to individual citizens this week, in the latest free-market reform to hit the island. The loans are aimed at growing small businesses and self-employed, as well as farmers and those building their own homes.
  • Police in Argentina raided the offices of a cable television company on Tuesday, in what the company claims is a political battle following a falling out with the President in 2008. The President says their goal is to break up monopolies as a way to ensure freedom of expression, though they denied ordering the current intervention. Also on Tuesday, an Argentine minister was found hanged in his hotel room in Uruguay during a summit meeting of Mercosur, with police trying to determine if it was a crime, a suicide or an accident. The South American trading bloc banned ships from their ports that fly the Falkland Islands flag, with the Argentine President accusing Britain of taking the country’s resources and ignoring UN resolutions and asking for fresh talks on the status of the islands.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… December 9th-15th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I would like to appeal to readers to direct me to any English news sites from Latin America to help make this section better. If you know of any good news sites, blogs or organizations that profile human rights, conflict or peace issues from South or Central America, please write to me at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or leave me the details in the comments below.

Thanks in advance,

Rebecca

 

  • Occupy Wall Street protesters in the United States have issued a call for thousands of protesters across the country to reoccupy public spaces to mark the movement’s three-month anniversary on December 17th. On Friday morning, the Occupy Boston camp remained in place, despite the deadline to move passing; Defense Secretary Panetta announced he would begin to talk publicly about the results of a strategic review to guide the Pentagon as it cuts hundreds of billions in military spending some time next month; a gunman opened fire on motorists in the heart of Hollywood; and the identity of the Virginia Tech gunman was revealed—though no motivation for the shooting was yet revealed. On Saturday, police evicted the Occupy Boston protesters from Dewey Square and arrested around 40 people. A new report on rape in the military demonstrates the difficulty victims face in trying to seek justice, amid claims that it is estimated that a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be attacked by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire and that 37% of sexual trauma cases reported in the last year happened to men. On Monday, Occupy Wall Street protesters began a new “waterfront” campaign that aims to shut down ports up and down the west coast. On Tuesday, a federal judge temporarily blocked a part of a tough new immigration law in Alabama that would require residents to show proof of citizenship when registering mobile homes with the state; while a military drone used to monitor piracy off the East African coast crashed at an airport on the island nation of Seychelles. On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives voted in favour of a controversial legislation that would deny terror suspects, including US citizens, the right to trial and that could permit authorities to detain them indefinitely; while the US officially ended its war in Iraq with a ceremony at the Baghdad airport nearly nine years after it started; and the CDC issued a report that claimed that nearly 20% of all women in the US has been raped at least once.
  • On Wednesday, the body of a campaigner for indigenous rights was found the day after he was kidnapped in Mexico. On Sunday, one man was killed and nine others wounded after assailants tossed a bomb into a building where a cockfight was being held. On Monday, Mexican marines captured a founding member of the Zetas drug cartel, Raul Lucio Hernandez Lechuga in Cordoba, while a shootout just south of the Texas border killed 11 alleged gunmen and injured one soldier.
  • Cristina Kirchner was sworn in for a second four-year term as the President of Argentina on Saturday. Kirchner announced that she is intent on bolstering the country’s economy by promoting industry and consumer spending.
  • Bolivia is set to pass the Law of Mother Earth which will grant nature the same rights and protections as humans intended to encourage a radical shift in conservation attitudes and actions and reduce environmental destruction. The law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings.
  • On Saturday President Humala of Peru replaced his PM with a former army officer who was his instructor in the military amid fears that this could signal more authoritarian governing in the country. Some are concerned about the changes in the President’s political style, saying he went from a Chavista to a moderate leftist to a pro-business President and now a pro-military President.
  • Noriega has been returned to Panama following his extradition from France on Sunday. His critics have called upon the population to take to the streets to show their condemnation.
  • On Tuesday, Canada formally pulled out of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, only one day after an update was agreed upon amid international condemnation; while the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has decided to conduct an inquiry into the murders and disappearances of hundreds of Aboriginal women and girls across the country over the past two decades that have faced a continued failure to take action by the Canadian government. A member of the opposition also expressed concern on Tuesday with the Conservative government’s agenda, warning that Canadians should worry that their rights will be trampled along with parliamentary democracy. On Wednesday, an MP in the House of Commons called the Environment Minister a “piece of sh*&” while he was responding to questions about the country’s withdraw from Kyoto– a sentiment I couldn’t agree more with at the moment—though he later apologized for his disrupting and unprofessional comment. A new report suggests that the dumping of sewage into a pumping station by De Beers helped to cause the recent housing crisis in the First Nations Attawapiskat community.
  • Brazil’s justice ministry submitted plans for a new disarmament drive to coincide with the 2014 World Cup football tournament. The government suggests swapping official footballs and shirts signed by World Cup teams, as well as free or discounted tickets for weapons handed into authorities, as well as possibly turning destroyed guns into goalposts. Many are less than satisfied, however, with FIFA’s entrance into the country, saying that their rights are being robbed by FIFA’s demands and massive public works projects that are tearing up their cities.
  • The President of Guatemala has reportedly apologized to the relatives of victims of the 1982 massacre committed during the civil conflict on Wednesday, in which Guatemalan soldiers killed more than 200 people.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… December 2nd- December 8th, 2011.

  • On Friday, heads of state from across Latin America and the Caribbean flew into Venezuela for the inaugural meeting of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States or CELAC. The group is designed to counter US influence and improve regional ties.
  • On Friday, the ruling party in Guyana proclaimed its fifth straight presidential election win; in a vote the opposition parties’ claim was rigged. The PPP/C took some 49% of votes cast, narrowly losing its parliamentary majority for the first time in 19 years. On Friday, the opposition marched in protest and held a 10 minute silent sit-in near the headquarters of the Elections Commission demanding explanations of discrepancies in the results.
  • On Thursday, the United States passed a bill that declares the entire country as a battleground and allows the military to operate with impunity. On Friday, police in Tampa arrested 29 Occupy Tampa protesters when they refused to leave a downtown park. Protesters in DC began constructing a wooden building on Saturday in the local park during the Occupy DC protests. Police demanded they disassemble it on Sunday, arresting several people who refused. Several Occupy Portland protesters were also arrested over the weekend for refusing to leave a park area. An interesting report declared that contrary to popular belief, military spending in the US doesn’t create jobs, it actually costs them. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called upon world governments to stop persecuting homosexuals, even though only 21 states outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and same sex marriage is illegal in the majority of the country; while a new report found that more than half of bribes reported in the US since 2007 were made by individuals associated with the government and that over 25% of all reported bribe demands were valued at more than $50,000 USD.  On Wednesday, thousands of Occupy demonstrators shut down part of K Street in Washington DC, home of lobbying in the nation’s capital; police in San Francisco arrested some 70 people during an overnight raid on that city’s Occupy movement; Occupy protesters began rallying around homeowners as they tried to resist evictions from foreclosed homes across the country; protesters sat in congressional offices at Capitol Hill; and the US called for closer international cooperation to prevent terrorist groups from developing or using biological weapons, a threat the government claims is growing.  On Thursday, two people, including a police officer were shot dead on Virginia Tech’s campus, site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history in 2007; while a secret CIA prison that housed some of its most valuable detainees was unearthed in Bucharest, Romania.
  • FARC, the largest armed rebel group in Colombia has pledged to free six of its eleven captive members of the country’s security forces in response to nationwide protests calling for their freedom and the end of guerrilla warfare. On Thursday, Jorge Humberto Victoria, an ex-paramilitary leader believed to be a key witness in the 1997 Mapiripan massacre, handed himself into authorities.
  • On Saturday, protesters at the Newmont Mining site in Peru reportedly abandoned roadblocks as government officials called weekend talks with regional leaders to try and resolve the conflict. On Monday, the Congress suspended VP Omar Chehade from the legislature over corruption allegations. On Tuesday, police detained two leaders in the Newmont Mining protest following the recent state of emergency crackdown that suspended freedom of assembly in the region. One of the few active remaining leaders of the Shining Path rebel movement admitted that the movement had been defeated on Wednesday and said that they were ready to talk with the government about ending the rebellion.
  • Freedom of press in jeopardy in Honduras as the country’s human rights commissioner warned that journalists are facing growing danger; a day after a radio host was killed. Luz Marina Paz was the 17th media worker to be killed over the past couple years in the country.
  • Dozens of indigenous Cree families in the First Nations community of Attawapiskatt, in Canada have been forced to live in tents or shacks without heating, despite millions of federal dollars being injected into their community and are now calling upon the UN to intervene after the declaration of emergency failed to achieve results. Temperatures in the area can reach 50 degrees below zero. The Canadian Youth Delegation were ejected from COP17 Durban Climate Change talks on Wednesday after turning their backs on Canada’s Environment Minister during his speech in protest at the country’s lack-lustre environmental performance and recent decision to pull out of the Kyoto Accords.
  • On Sunday, Panama’s jailed former ruler Manuel Noriega is to be extradited from France to his homeland to serve sentences he received in absentia in his native land. Noriega has already spent more than 20 years in French and US prisons.
  • On Friday, the head of the main opposition  Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico resigned amid a scandal surrounding state finances.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… November 25th- December 1st, 2011.

  • The UN regional economic body, ECLAC, announced on Wednesday that poverty in Latin America is at its lowest level in 20 years. Among the countries that saw the largest drops in poverty are Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Columbia, with poverty increasing only in Honduras and Mexico.
  • On Wednesday, seventeen bodies were found burned in two pickup trucks in Sinaloa, Mexico, in what is suspected to be an attack by a drug cartel. On Thursday twenty-six bound and gagged bodies were found in abandoned vehicles in Guadalajara, in what is described as a similar attack. On Friday, a Mexican human rights lawyer filed the biggest civil lawsuit ever presented to the ICC demanding a probe for those responsible for systematic human rights abuses and crimes against humanity during the Mexican Drug War. The Mexican government threatened legal action against those who reported them to the ICC on Monday, calling the accusations “absurd”, “unfounded” and “slander”. On Tuesday, US police found one of the most sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnels to date linking warehouses in Tijuana and San Diego.
  • Security forces in Trinidad and Tobago reportedly uncovered a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister, National Security Minister Brigadier, Attorney General and Foreign Affairs and Information Minister in response to the government’s call for a State of Emergency. More than ten people were detained in police custody.
  • Police in Peru fired tear gas to break up protests at Newmont Mining Corp’s proposed gold mine on Friday. Protesters fear the mine will hurt nearby water supplies. By Wednesday, Newmont announced it was halting construction, after days of protests that injured at least 10 people.
  • President Santos of Colombia announced on Thursday that the country was nearing the final phase of nearly 50 years of war and that his government would be willing to sit down and talk peace if rebels were serious. The killing of FARC rebel leader Alfonso Cano earlier this month is said to have struck a major blow to the rebels, though most analysts believe the rebel army will continue to draw support from landless peasants. On Saturday, FARC killed four of its longest held captives in an apparent clash between soldiers and guerrillas during a failed rescue attempt. One of Colombia’s most wanted drug lord, Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco was captured in Venezuela on Monday.
  • Occupy Los Angeles protesters in the USA are refusing to leave after the city’s mayor told them they must move by Monday because they were violating health and safety laws and damaging lawns, in the latest Occupy movement forced to evacuate.  The Sunday midnight deadline was missed, while police surrounded the camp for six hours, eventually withdrawing without evictions. However, by Wednesday, police moved to evict the protesters, with an estimated 200 arrests made. Police in Philadelphia forced the eviction of Occupy protesters on Wednesday as well, with some 50 arrests, while using bulldozers to dismantle the camp. Meanwhile, thousands camped out without government eviction across the country in hopes of finding bargains during Black Friday sales, amid numerous violent incidents including fights, shootings, riots and a pepper spray attack. In a flawed logic, the most senior US military figure warned that the number of threats facing the US and its allies had increased over the last decade, justifying the necessity of strong armed forces to “fight back”, instead of seeing the increasing military presence as responsible for the growing threats against the country. The US Senate voted on Tuesday to keep a controversial provision of the National Defense Authorization Act to let the military detain terrorism suspects on US soil and hold them indefinitely without trial.
  • The first shipment of gold bullion reserves was repatriated from overseas banks into Venezuela’s central bank after President Chavez ordered the gold be brought home to protect it from global economic turbulence. The gold had been held abroad since the late 1980s as backing for loans requested from the IMF from previous governments.
  • Canada has declared that the Kyoto Protocol is a thing of the past, and reportedly will be pulling out of the treaty, making the formal announcement sometime next month. Given that the country won the first, second and third place Fossil of the Day Award (an award given to the country that has done the most to disrupt and undermine negotiations) at the Cancun 2010 climate talks; it’s not an overly surprising move.  The Conservative government declined to confirm media reports, though it has already walked away from its obligations years ago.
  • People in Guyana took to the polls on Monday in a vote thought likely to continue to reflect the nation’s racial divide.  The PPP/C, backed mainly by the Indo-Guyanese community, is hoping to secure a fifth straight victory. On Wednesday, the main opposition claimed that the vote had been rigged in favor of the ruling party. Officials urged calm on Thursday as tensions were raised over the delay in announcing the results, which the electoral commission says need to be double-checked.
  •  On Wednesday, Honduras voted to deploy their army to fight encroaching Mexican drug cartels in an effort to curb violence in the country. Honduras has the highest rate of homicides in the world per capita, with 82 murders per 100,000 people last year; or about 20 people killed every day.

PTSD and reporting on violence.

Hello all! Hope all is well!

I came across this post and was moved by it, so I thought since I’m not up to writing just yet, I’d share it with you! If you haven’t already checked out this blog, I suggest you bookmark it, because it’s top-notch! Thanks for letting me re-post it Amanda.

Peace!

Rebecca

Originally posted at http://wrongingrights.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-mac-mcclellands-tale-of-reporting.html

 

On Mac McClelland’s Tale of Reporting, Rough Sex, and PTSD

(Posts on Hamdan and DSK will hopefully be coming soon, but first I’m going to discuss what turned out to be the favored write-in candidate for my next post: many of you emailed me asking for my reaction to reporter Mac McClelland’s article about her own struggle with PTSD.)

McClelland, who writes about human rights and foreign affairs for Mother Jones, developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a series of difficult reporting assignments in Haiti, during which she interviewed rape victims and was also herself the object of predatory sexual behavior. She has written a number of pieces about her healing process, including several that chronicled the self-defense classes she took at the behest of her editor. And then, a little over a week ago, she wrote an article for GOOD magazine in which she chronicled her PTSD in more detail, and described how having violent-but-consensual sex with someone she trusted helped her to overcome her trauma:

“And just like that, I’d lost. It’s what I was looking for, of course. But my body—my hard-fighting, adrenaline-drenched body—reacted by exploding into terrible panic. The comforting but debilitating blanket of tension that’d for weeks been wrapped around my chest solidified into a brick. Then the weight of his body, and of the inevitability of my defeat, descended on my ribcage. My worn-out muscles went so taut that they ached. I stopped breathing.

I did not enjoy it in the way a person getting screwed normally would. But as it became clear that I could endure it, I started to take deeper breaths. And my mind stayed there, stayed present even when it became painful, even when he suddenly smothered me with a pillow, not to asphyxiate me but so that he didn’t break my jaw when he drew his elbow back and slammed his fist into my face. Two, three, four times. My body felt devastated but relieved; I’d lost, but survived. After he climbed off me, he gathered me up in his arms. I broke into a thousand pieces on his chest, sobbing so hard that my ribs felt like they were coming loose.”

Her essay has been greeted with derision, vitriol, and worse – especially from her fellow journalists. Marjorie Valbrun, writing for Slate’s XX factor blog, called it “offensive,” “shockingly narcissistic,” and “intellectually dishonest.” Reporter Damian Cave tweeted that she was a “geisha to the NGO republic.” And 36 female reporters and Haiti researchers signed an open letter to GOOD, claiming that “the way she uses Haiti as a backdrop for this narrative is sensationalist and irresponsible,” and that

“[McClelland] paints Haiti as a heart-of-darkness dystopia, which serves only to highlight her own personal bravery for having gone there in the first place. She makes use of stereotypes about Haiti that would be better left in an earlier century: the savage men consumed by their own lust, the omnipresent violence and chaos, the danger encoded in a black republic’s DNA.”

The various critiques fall into three rough categories:

  1. PTSD isn’t real, it’s just San Francisco therapy-speak for “having a bad day,” so McClelland must have been a self-obsessed narcissist to write about it as if it’s something to be taken seriously;
  2. PTSD is real, but McClelland either had no right to develop it or was faking it, because reporting about other people’s trauma doesn’t seem like it should be that hard; or
  3. McClelland was allowed to get PTSD, but isn’t allowed to write about it being triggered by reporting from Haiti, because that might give people the impression that bad things can happen in Haiti, and that is clearly racist and colonialist.

I find these reactions confusing. The piece in question is a personal essay about her own struggle with PTSD. It wasn’t reportage on Haiti, or anything else for that matter. So why all the snarls and slashing claws?

In the interest of lighting candles instead of cursing darkness and all that, I figure I’ll address each of the arguments in turn.

PTSD = Not Really That Real?

In fairness, none of the responses I read came right out and specifically said that they think PTSD is fake. However, I have to believe that many of them think that. Because why else would they call McClelland “narcissistic” for developing it? I assume that when they hear that a person has caught malaria, their response isn’t “That self-obsessed bitch! Doesn’t she know that other people have been bitten by way more mosquitoes, and never had a problem?”

Flashbacks and vivid nightmares might be less obvious than 104-degree fevers, but that doesn’t mean they’re made up. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – it’s totes real, y’all! Not a fake thing that people like to claim they have, just because the stigma of mental illness is so super fun!

Perhaps the easiest way to conceptualize PTSD, if you’ve never experienced or encountered it yourself, is as an emotional allergic reaction. With physical allergies, your immune system becomes over sensitized to a physical substance, and will react so strongly when it encounters, say, a peanut, that the result can be serious injury or even death. PTSD can be thought of as the emotional version of that: the body’s emotional system won’t stop fighting, even when it’s no longer necessary. It’s a severe, involuntary over-reaction of of the brain’s normal responses to trauma, and the results can be devastating – the mental equivalent of anaphylactic shock.

The behavior that results from this “mental allergic reaction” can be bizarre and disturbing. One of the first clients I ever worked with was a middle-aged man who was seeking asylum, who also had a severe case of PTSD. As a result, he would do almost anything to avoid discussing his trauma. Because I needed to know what had happened to him in order to file the claim, this was a big problem for our working relationship. He lied to me repeatedly, and often became explosively angry at seemingly random moments. Working on the case made him crushingly fatigued, no matter how much coffee he drank. On one memorable occasion, he fell asleep while talking to me – literally dozed off in the middle of his own sentence.

Another time, I was interviewing a woman about sexual assaults she had suffered as an adult, and she began to impersonate her six-year-old self, who couldn’t be questioned about the assaults because they didn’t happen until she grew up. I’ve had other clients who were initially too traumatized to tell me what happened to them at all, forcing me to suspend work on their cases until after they received treatment from a therapist. It bears repeating that these were asylum cases – winning them was potentially life-saving, so these people had every incentive to cooperate, but their PTSD was so severe that they literally couldn’t.

The thing to draw from these stories, (other than “become an asylum lawyer! Meet vulnerable people, and make them re-live their past traumas for fun and profit!”) is that the symptoms of PTSD can, in many cases, be almost indistinguishable from the symptoms of being an asshole. But there’s a key difference: assholes act that way because they don’t think you deserve respect, while PTSD sufferers act that way because their brains mistakenly think that something is trying to kill them. I don’t know about you, but I think that a person engaged in the activity of “trying not to die” deserves to be cut a bit more slack than a person engaged in the activity of “trying to annoy you.”

Yeah, But McClelland Didn’t Go Through Anything That Bad, Did She? She Must Be Faking, Right?

Nor do I have much sympathy for all the be-internetted mutterings about how ridiculous it was for McClelland to claim PTSD after “only” interviewing a rape victim and not being actually raped herself, or after “only” one trip to Haiti, or “only” whatever else.

For one thing, that’s an unnecessarily restrictive reading of her story, which mentions a number of traumatic situations, including: two trips to Haiti, during which she reported on a brutal sexual assault and mutilation; being the object of sexually predatory behavior by her driver in Haiti, who “cornered her,” an “upstanding member of the Haitian elite,” who stalked her, and a group of convicted ex-felons in Oklahoma who “got handsy” and suggested that she’d be “pretty fun to pass around for lively intercourse;” and the difficulty of reporting on the Deepwater Horizon spill in New Orleans a few months earlier, which had brought back memories of living in that city during Katrina. That doesn’t sound like “only” anything to me.

But even if it were really true McClelland was traumatized by her reporting on the story of Haitian rape victim “Sybille,” that wouldn’t matter. Because not only is PTSD totes real (see above), it also isn’t something that people can control. It’s not like you get to say “sure, this seems bad, but far worse things are happening to other people elsewhere, so I think I will actually not develop PTSD today.”

Again, that’s a courtesy that we extend automatically to people who suffer physical injuries or diseases. If someone loses a leg in a car accident, we don’t dismiss their pain on the grounds that other people lose their legs fighting in wars.

Although I have never had PTSD myself, my personal experience is still enough for me to know that you never know which events are going to leave you traumatized. In my case, my closest actual brush with death – getting run over by a car at age 17 – left me physically bashed up, but emotionally fine. But sometimes exposure to other people’s trauma, through some of the cases I’ve worked on, has on occasion left me a jangly-nerved wreck. For me, those symptoms have tended to manifest in the form of hackneyed-metaphor nightmares (example: I’m in a school that’s bright and sunny, but then I go downstairs and the basement is full of mangled corpses – I get it, subconscious, I get it), and a complete inability to watch torture scenes in movies. Casino Royale left me shaking in my seat, holding my head between my knees and trying not to pass out or throw up.

Luckily, for me, such problems always went away quickly, on their own. I’ve never needed to go to a trauma therapist, or to have someone punch me in the face during sex. But that’s just good luck. It wasn’t strong moral fiber on my part, any more than it was weakness for me to be affected by my clients’ stories in the first place. Just as it wasn’t any more impressive for me not to develop PTSD after getting hit by a car while walking to class one sunny morning than it was for me not to develop an allergy to peanuts. Just as it wasn’t weakness for McClelland to develop PTSD, or to get over it the way that she did. (As treatment plans go, “have the violent sex you crave with a person you can trust” is quite niche, but I’m glad it worked for her.)

And I’m glad that she wrote about it, partly because her prose is vivid and engaging, but partly because I think there is value in embracing the weirdness that mental illness causes, and the weirdness that can be encountered when overcoming it.

There is also value in writing an article that tells other people that healing is possible, but that the road might be peculiar. I couldn’t put it better than commenter Goodspices, who left this comment on Mac’s article:

“Reading this article is an awakening that the feelings I’ve experienced as a victim of PTSD aren’t wrong, happen to others, and most importantly, can be worked through with help. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for everyone but if it worked together for the good, why should we feel the need for judging her?”

If that’s not a good reason for her to have written and published this article, I don’t know what is.

McClelland Shouldn’t Have Written That Her Trip To Haiti Triggered Her PTSD, Because That Is Clearly Racist And Colonialist

I almost feel like I shouldn’t even address this argument, because I think it is so stupid. Those of you who read this blog know that I have basically zero tolerance for the “land of rape and lions” brand of reporting on developing countries, so I feel pretty comfortable with my ability to tell the difference between that, and a personal essay that includes relevant facts. McClelland’s piece is the latter: she was writing about her own experience of Haiti, and that experience included interviewing rape victims, being stalked and harassed by men who felt entitled to have sex with her, and observing an awful lot of guns. I struggle to see how having those experiences, or writing about them, constitutes racism.

When it comes to the Gang of 36’s arguments, I find myself in agreement with Conor Friedersdorf:

This is what a hit piece reads like when it’s cloaked in liberal arts school vernacular. If you scoffed when Pres. Obama was smeared as having a Kenyan anti-colonial mindset, witness the other side’s answer to Dinesh D’Souza: in their telling, we’re to understand the writer by presuming that she has a colonial mindset. How dare someone travel to refugee camps plagued by an epidemic of gang rape, get cornered by her driver, develop PTSD, and focus an essay about her ailment on “ugly chaos”?

Their tactics are especially galling because McClelland never mentions race in her piece, but that doesn’t stop the signatories from using loaded terms to imply that she is racially unenlightened (a “heart of darkness” dystopia with “savage” men). It’s easy to make a writer look bad when you impute to her ugly sentiments she never actually expresses.

And Una Moore:

That 36 well-respected women working as journalists, aid workers and researchers deemed it necessary to endorse a letter that shames a reporter grappling with PTSD for things she did not even write is evidence of just how widespread support for self-censorship is among a network that, were it to live up to its ideals, would encourage bold self-expression, but instead mobilizes to stamp it out and sow fear of independent thought.

To sum up:

  • I liked the article;
  • PTSD = totally a thing; and
  • People should stop being such jerks about it.

This Week in Conflict in the Americas… June 23rd-29th, 2011.

Special thanks to Michael Southcott for his submissions.

  • President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela spent nearly two weeks  recovering from surgery in Cuba after swelling in his pelvis and has been out of public sight since, causing much speculation  that he may be seriously ill since he was originally scheduled to return to Venezuela after a few days. On Friday, the incredibly public and loquacious leader posted for the first time on Twitter , but made no note about his health. State television reported on Saturday that the standoff  at the Rodeo prison complex was continuing into its second week, with at least 29 dead and many refusing to leave the prison until the National Guard were removed. On Monday, the opposition demanded information  from the government on Chavez’s health and bond prices rallied on speculation that he could be seriously ill. On Thursday, it was reported  that a regional summit that Chavez was to host scheduled for July 5th had been suspended, fueling more rumour and suspiscion that the President may be more ill than the government is admitting.
  • At least eight suspected drug traffickers were reportedly killed  during a raid in a slum area in Rio, Brazil between Wednesday and Thursday. Exchanges of gunfire are said to have lasted several hours, with police later discovering rifles, pistols and grenades.
  • The government of Mexico condemned the fatal shooting  of a Mexican man on Tuesday who was allegedly throwing stones at US agents across the Tijuana-San Diego fence. The Mexican foreign ministry called the shooting “disproportionate”.  An independent study  by the think tank Mexico Evalua said that a six-fold increase in security spending in the past five years has done little to stop the rising carjackings, kidnappings and other violent crimes within the country, suggesting that an alternate approach might be necessary.
  • On Friday, New York became the sixth and most populous US state to allow gay  marriage. State senators voted 33-29 to approve marriage equality legislation.  A new NPR report detailed that the US military spends an outrageous $20.2 billion  annually on air conditioning alone in Iraq and Afghanistan at great risk to the troops tasked with delivering it (more than 1,000 have died in fuel convoys), an amount that exceeds NASA’s budget, and the amount the G8 has pledged to help in Egypt and Tunisia. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan have so far cost  the US $3.7 trillion, and are expected to top $4.4 trillion; more than 224,000 people have died, 365,000 have been wounded and some 7.8 million have been displaced, according to a recent study by Brown University. Human Rights Watch called on the US  to suspend military assistance to countries that use child soldiers, including Burma/Myanmar, Chad, the DRC, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. On Tuesday, a US Senate panel approved a resolution  formally authorizing the continued participation of Americans in the NATO-led military intervention in Libya, though they banned the introduction of ground troops.
  • At least three people died in clashes between students and police over plans for  a new university in central Peru on Wednesday. On Saturday, at least five  people were killed and more than 30 injured in clashes between police and anti-mining demonstrators striking over a silver-mining contract given to a Canadian corporation. The demonstrators tried to take over a commercial airport, and occupied the runway  at the Juliaca airport in the Puno region. The government later revoked the contract. The President-elect announced that he wants to pass  a bill that would require the country to adhere to the UN treaty on indigenous peoples, while the mining ministry issued a rule over the weekend requiring companies to consult with the indigenous peoples before building new mines or oil projects.
  • President Jose Mujica, of Uruguay, has allowed  the courts to investigate human rights abuses that have been committed under previous military rule during their reign between 1973 and 1985. An estimated 200 people were kidnapped and murdered by military forces during that time period.
  • A court in Ecuador found six police  officers guilty of crimes against the security of the state, following the September protest that resulted in the President being forcibly detained. Sentencing will take place at a later date.
  • On Wednesday, a senior police officer in Columbia was killed  and three others injured by an explosive device in the north-west. FARC members are accused of burning two buses and a lorry and then detonating the explosives once police arrived.
  • A court in Guatemala has thrown out  the former first lady, Sadra Torres’ bid for the presidency, after she divorced her husband in an attempt to skirt a law that prevents family members of the President from taking power. The first round of elections is scheduled for September 11th.

 

This Week in Conflict in the Americas…. June 16th-22nd, 2011

Hello, hope all is well!

Sorry, several of the This Week in Conflict reports are a little late this week, as I have been without power or Internet since Tuesday, one of the side-effects of living in a conflict zone. As such, stories are only updated until Tuesday evening. I will try to keep to a consistent posting schedule, as much as my access to the Internet allows me.

Peace!

Rebecca

 

This Week in Conflict is now being divided up!

Here is the new schedule:

This Week in the World of Conflict – posted on Mondays

This Week in African Conflict- posted on Tuesdays

This Week in Asian Conflict – posted on Wednesdays (includes Oceania and Australia)

This Week in Conflict in the Americas – posted on Thursdays

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict – posted on Fridays

This Week in European Conflict – posted on Saturdays

Please submit any reports or stories of conflict around the world to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or write in the comments below. Here’s a summary of what happened this week in the Americas:

  • A top drug official said that Latin American cocaine traffickers may be using submarines to move Europe-bound drugs across the Atlantic. The drugs are said to be smuggled into West Africa and then transferred north.
  • Police in Mexico have arrested a military deserter believed to have joined the Zetas drug cartel and participated in the massacre of 72 migrants near the US border on Saturday. A Reuters report called attention to a disturbing trend in the country’s war on drugs; that teen girls are being trained as drug cartel assassins. On Friday, at least 10 people died in drug killings in Matamoros and five people were killed in Acapulco. On Saturday, two men and one woman were found murdered by suspected hitmen in Mazamilta; and at least 11 died in drug violence in Ciudad Juarez. At least 22 people were killed in a string of weekend attacks blamed on drug gang violence, including four youths killed on Sunday in Guadalupe, another 14 in Michoacan, and the execution of three in a bar in Monterrey late on Saturday. On Monday, a journalist reporting on crime and politics, his wife and their 21 year old son were shot to death inside their home in Veracruz.
  • President Kirchner of Argentina called Britain a “crass colonial power in decline” for refusing to hold talks over the disputed Falkland Islands on Thursday, while Britain said it would only agree to sovereignty talks if the territory’s residents ask for it.
  • On Friday, it was reported that at least 3,500 troops from the National Guard in Venezuela stormed a prison near the capital in an attempt to quell a riot. At least 21 inmates and one security force member were killed and many more injured. On Sunday, some 3,500 prisoners were transferred to other prisons, and the stand-off continued in one prison wing, after attempts at negotiation failed. On Tuesday, prisoners were warning of a “massacre” happening inside, and human rights activists claimed to have received text messages from inmates containing urgent pleas to spare their lives.
  • On Saturday, authorities in Guatemala arrested the former armed forces chief accused of joining in massacres during the 1980s civil war. General Hector Mario Lopez Fuentes is accused of participating in genocide and crimes against humanity.
  • A US judge dismissed all criminal charges against Osama bin Laden, closing a 13 year court case against him for the September 11th attacks. The judge issued a “nolle prosqui” order, a typical legal move once a defendant is deceased. On Monday, the US Supreme Court rejected a global warming lawsuit against five big power companies that would force coal-burning plants to cut emissions of gases that contribute to climate change. On Monday, a US federal judge approved a $3.4 billion settlement over the “mismanaged” Native American royalties, that US officials systematically stole or squandered from royalties intended for Native Americans in exchange for oil, gas, grazing and other leases for more than a century.
  • Police in Brazil have been raiding slums dominated by drug trafficking gangs in an ongoing program to bring peace to areas near Maracana stadium ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. We can only hope that the attempt to “pacify” the area doesn’t lead to gentrification and removal of all “undesirables” for tourism sake as we have seen during previous games.
  • Reuters reported on the key political risks to watch for in Peru following the recent Presidential elections. The local human rights agency notes that there are some 200 social conflicts over natural resources, as well as continued conflicts with the Shining Path rebels.

More Canadian involvement in conflict minerals: Violent Attack on Peaceful Protesters Near the Marlin Mine

Hello all! Hope all is well!

My friend Rachel (who authors the fabulous blog under-mining Guatemala about mining abuses within the country) just posted the following blog post, which I had to share with you. Check out her fabulous blog if you get a chance.

Peace!

Rebecca


I received the following letter from Rights Action today concerning an attack on peaceful campesinos protesting the lack of compliance with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine, in Guatemala.

Below it, I have included 2 letters I drafted quickly in response. Feel free to copy-paste the first, and send it to Goldcorp (addresses included). Then forward it to the government and, if you like, include the second letter I include below.

URGENT CONCERN FOR SAFETY OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS OF SAN MIGUEL IXTAHUACÁN FOLLOWING PEACEFUL PROTESTS
We denounce the human rights violations and abuses committed today against peaceful protesters in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala.  The protest, demanding compliance with precautionary measures ordered by the Interamerican Commission for Human Rights regarding the Marlin mine, took place without incident during the day.  In late afternoon, participants returning from the peaceful roadblocks were reportedly confronted and attacked by community development council (COCODE) members and mine workers in San José Ixcaniche.
According to participants in the protest, Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; one bus including approximately 40 men and women have been illegally detained and some beaten in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  As this alert is being written, they remain detained.  We are deeply concerned that the lives of human rights defenders are at risk.
Contact has been established with the local Human Rights Procurator’s (PDH) office, the local Presidential Commission for Defense of Human Rights (COPREDEH) and police, as well as national and international organizations to report these acts.
We ask you to stay alert and be ready to respond when more information and action requests are available from local organizations supporting communities resisting unjust mining in Guatemala.
In solidarity,

Francois Guindon – pancho@nisgua.org – +502 4014 7804
The Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala, USA
Cynthia Benoist – collectifguatemala3@gmail.com Collectif Guatemala,
France Jackie McVicar – jmcvicar@gmail.com Breaking the Silence, Canada
Grahame Russell – info@rightsaction.org  – +502 4955 3634
Rights Action, Canada/USA

Here are two letters I drafted quickly in response. Feel free to copy-paste the first, and send it to Goldcorp (addresses included). Then forward it to the government and, if you like, include the second letter I include below.

Send to Goldcorp CEO: Chuck.Jeannes@goldcorp.com

CC: Kim.Keras@goldcorp.com,
Tim.Miller@montana.com.gt,
Dina.Aloi@goldcorp.com,
david.deisley@goldcorp.com,
Jeff.Wilhoit@goldcorp.com,
Directors@goldcorp.com,
jamess@montana.com.gt,
lisa.wade@montana.com.gt

Dear Mr. Jeannes,

I am very concerned with the events I’ve just heard of, that occurred today near the site of your Marlin Mine, in Guatemala.

I understand that an outbreak of violence occurred this afternoon against a group of primarily Mayan-Man campesinos, peacefully protesting the fact that neither your company nor the government of Guatemala has yet complied with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s mining operation.

Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; one bus including approximately 40 men and women have been illegally detained and some beaten in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  I am deeply concerned that the lives of these individuals who remain detained are at enormous risk.

Whether or not your mining operation is directly linked to this latest bout of violence, the indirect link is clear, and I await your response on how you are mitigating this violent situation. Further, I am joining the chorus of voices within Guatemala and international who are calling for a suspension of the Marlin Mine.

Forward the above letter to Leeann McKechnie, Canada’s ambassador to Guatemala, who can be reached at:

karin.reinecke@international.gc.ca,
jennifer.chacon@international.gc.ca,
gtmla@international.gc.ca

CC:

info@gg.ca,
DMousseau@gg.ca,
HarpeS@parl.gc.ca,
cannol@parl.gc.ca,
kent.p@parl.gc.ca,
ducepg@parl.gc.ca,
laytoj@parl.gc.ca,
emaytowin@greenparty.ca,
ignatm@parl.gc.ca,
RaeB@parl.gc.ca,
LalonF@parl.gc.ca,
DewarP@parl.gc.ca,
bagnell.l@parl.gc.ca,
days@parl.gc.ca,
julian.p@parl.gc.ca,
SorenK@parl.gc.ca,
Allison.D@parl.gc.ca,
Marketa.Evans@international.gc.ca

Dear Ambassador Leeann McKechnie,

Please find below the email I have sent to Goldcorp, expressing my concern over the violence a number of peaceful protesters near the Marlin Mine faced this afternoon. They were protesting the fact that neither the company nor the government of Guatemala has yet complied with a May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to suspend Goldcorp’s mining operation.

Immediately following their peaceful protest, Miguel Angel Bámaca and Aniseto López were beaten and threatened with lynching; and one bus including approximately 40 men and women was illegally detained in the community of San José Ixcaniche.  I am deeply concerned that the lives of these individuals who remain detained are at enormous risk.

In addition to my concern for these individuals’ personal safety, I am shocked and dismayed by the failure of your embassy, and of the Canadian government at large to urge this Canadian company to comply with the May 2010 order from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

I await your response on how you are working to ensure the safety of these  peaceful campesinos. Further, I ask that you join the chorus of voices both within Guatemala and internationally who are calling for a suspension of the Marlin Mine.

Sincerely,